Windbag Industries

pop culture nuggets and assorted theories, curated by brandon broxey.

Soylent update #1

Here is a surprisingly impossible challenge: find a meal that’s healthy, cheap and requires zero time or effort to prepare. Cheap and healthy is doable, but taking even three minutes each morning to prepare a salad for lunch is too much work for me. Yes, I’m that lazy. And it’s why I’m a charter member of #TeamFoodPill.

There is still no food pill out there, but there is a close approximation in a new product called Soylent. For the unfamiliar, Soylent is essentially a protein shake with a few tweaks. (1) It’s got a balanced nutritional profile so you can have it for every meal. (2) It’s cheaper, coming in at around $3 per meal. (3) A shipment of powder and oil comes to your home and you make shakes whenever you need them, in whatever amount you choose. Healthy, cheap and easy prep. SOLD.

There are many Soylent believers like me, but many others who heard about it and absolutely flipped the fuck out in dismissal. People knee-jerkedly wrote off the product as yet another Silicon Valley bro-fad designed to unnaturally automate our lives, a life-hack that is at best needless and at worst dangerous. It’s been called boring, joyless, and perhaps the first step in some 1984 anti-social food-pill nightmare scenario. You can pry my Sunday brunch from my cold, dead hands.

Rigoddamndiculous. Soylent is not meant to replace family dinners or lunches with pals. It’s meant to replace drive-thru, takeout, cafeteria burgers, frozen pizza, or whatever you eat when you don’t have the time or energy to make something healthy.

That’s that goal, at least. I am fully aware that Soylent is mostly untested and may be laughed at someday, but off the bat it seemed like a worthy solution to my meal dilemma. So I placed an order which arrived a few weeks back. Here is my review of the experience thus far.

PREP

The box comes with packets of powder, vials of oil, a pitcher and instructions. Couldn’t be more simple on paper: dump the powder and oil in the pitcher, add water, shake and let it chill/settle for at least a few hours and ideally overnight.

In reality, it wasn’t that easy. The mixture remains clumpy even after shaking. And the next morning, the oil separates a bit near the top. So unless you own a paint-can shaker, be ready to shake intensely upfront and then again when you’re ready to drink. Not a big deal but my bet is the Soylent team is working on a solve.

DAILY PROCESS

Each pitcher includes one full day of calories, but I have mostly been using it for weekday lunches. I pour a third of the batch (20ish ounces) into a thermos the night before and store it in the freezer. Grab-and-go in the morning and drink over the lunch hour. I still do the intermittent fasting thing so I hold off until noon, but I think it’s a solid breakfast option too.

I rinse out the empty thermos at night, refill, make a new batch when it’s gone. Minimal prep: check.

TASTE

The main description others have given is a slightly sweet, slightly grainy pancake batter. Sounded fine to me as taste is low on my priority list compared to the other factors.

That said, my first batch was…less than ideal. The pancake batter is a perfect description, except mine was overly grainy, warm and kinda chalky. I choked it down and made three improvements to the second batch.

(1) I added cinnamon, (2) I made sure the shake was extremely cold using the freezer/thermos combo and (3) the aforementioned over-shaking. The result was better than drinkable, it was downright pleasant. Like a thin, cinnamony milkshake. I actually look forward to lunch now.

In other words, if you don’t expect too much from it, you might not be let down.

Related: there are tons of other flavors/ingredients that can be added to the mixture, from chocolate to fruit (a lot of people use their blender). Point is, if you are interested in amping up the flavor, solutions abound.

EFFECTS

After his first Soylent-only week, founder Rob Rhinehart stated:

I feel like the six million dollar man. My physique has noticeably improved, my skin is clearer, my teeth whiter, my hair thicker and my dandruff gone. My resting heart rate is lower, I haven’t felt the least bit sickly, rare for me this time of year. I’ve had a common skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris since birth. That was gone by day nine. I used to run less than a mile at the gym; now I can run seven. I have more energy than I know what to do with.

I can’t say if this is remotely accurate since I’m just using it for one meal a day, but expectations on energy, satiety, etc were fairly high. And the results: so far, so good.

I used to fast in the mornings, eat a small lunch and then gorge when I got home, but now I’m more full throughout the afternoon. It’s not a miracle by any means – I’m still hungry by dinnertime. But it’s as filling as it needs to be. Same for my energy level, cravings for sweets, sleep, etc. No miracles to report; all systems are a go.

Lastly, two side effects have been reported so often they are now noted in the welcome packet: headaches and unending farts. I’m happy to report no aches whatsoever, either of the head- or guilt-from-clearing-a-room- variety. Thank god for that.

TLDR: more updates to come, but so far I’m a fan.

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More reading if you’re curious:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/05/12/the-end-of-food?currentPage=all

http://www.theverge.com/2014/7/17/5893221/soylent-survivor-one-month-living-on-lab-made-liquid-nourishment

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Best songs by the worst bands

This is not a list of guilty pleasures, I unironically and seriously enjoy these songs. This is also not a list of one-hit wonders. I am talking about legitimately good songs by bands or artists that have shown the long-term and consistent aptitude to totally suck.

Some songs here aren’t amazing, some bands aren’t totally shitty…an appearance on this unranked list is just a noted disparity of awesomeness/shittiness. That’s the key. Here we go.

"The Old Apartment" by Barenaked Ladies. Just a rock-solid song by a run-of-the-mill shitty band.

"Come Sail Away" by Styx. Maybe it’s just my unending nostalgia for “Freaks and Geeks” coming through but this song is fucking great, no YOU shut up, no YOUR ears are broken, get out of my face.

"Umbrella" by Rihanna. Rihanna isn’t shitty per se, just a generic singer with generic songs that have been played hourly on the teenybopper radio station for the last decade. Bo-ring. This song, though. Refuses to get old.

"Since U Been Gone" by K-Clarks. Same basic sentiment as above except this song is a hundred times better. If the government knew how many times I’ve max-belted this one in the car by myself they’d take my children from me.

"Urgent" by Foreigner. [blush-face emoticon] I’m confused about these guys. Most of their songs are like jamming a coat hanger in my ears, but Seth Cohen once made a comment about them secretly rocking. Seth Cohen had genius musical tastes, regardless of the fact that he was not a real human. Plus, some of their guitar licks are surprisingly dope upon further listen. I’m torn. 

"Leather and Lace" by Stevie Nicks and Don Henley. The unstoppable awesomeness of Stevie Nicks almost perfectly offsets the lameness of Don Henley, but instead of creating a neutral song, this one is great.

"Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" by Paul Simon. Real talk, I hate most everything by Simon & Garfunkel. Slow, boring and pretentious. Everyone claims to love “Sounds of Silence” but I’d wager it’s immediately next-songed roughly 95% of the time. Same with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — in what scenario does a grown adult need to listen to something that slow and melodramatic? Stop it. This song is the opposite of those songs, though: fun and fast and dumb in the best way. 

"I Remember You" by Skid Row. Singlehandedly redeems the entire hair metal genre in just— ha, no, I’m kidding. That’s not possible. I can’t even say for sure that Skid Row is terrible but I listened to a bunch of previews on iTunes and was FAR from impressed. Nice work here, guys. Terrible work elsewhere.

"Bell Bottom Blues" by Eric Clapton. I’m cheating a bit because it’s technically Derek & The Dominos, but I think the main guy was Clapton. And I know Clapton is well-respected and he has some songs that are for sure un-terrible, but the guy has been making music for 85 years. His success rate is ~1%. “Layla?” “After Midnight?” “TEARS IN HEAVEN?” No, no, obviously no, turn that shit off and get out of my house. Overall, Clapton sucks. “Bell Bottom Blues” is a motherfucker though, the perfect 70s song. 

If I ever summon the energy, I’ll do a worst songs by the best bands list. So look for that to drop sometime between soonish and never.

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Why I fast

Chalk it up to metabolism or genetics, but I was born to be a standard chubby dude. I’m hovering around 180 pounds now but if I were to live as a typical guy – mostly eat okay, work out occasionally, exceptions abound — I’d probably be around 210.  Those 30 pounds will be fogging up my my rearview forever. 

Hence, I’ve tried diets. All of the diets.

Before I get to the one that’s worked best for me, here are the most important things I’ve learned in my approximately one million hours of research and experience: 

(1) Fad diets don’t work. (No shit.) Here is a general rule: if you aren’t prepared to continue with your diet until the day you die, stop it and find another. Losing ten pounds in one month and gaining it back the following month is worse than pointless, it’s actively depressing. 

(2) Exercise doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s great for your overall health & happiness but in terms of losing weight, exercise isn’t very helpful. Why? Two main reasons: you are burning fewer calories than you think, and you’ll need to replace the energy you just burned off somehow. You went for a two-mile run? That’s great! You ate a PowerBar afterwards? Never mind! Working off calories takes roughly a thousand times longer than ingesting them. What’s the easier choice for you: walking a mile EVERY time you eat a handful of M&Ms, or laying off the M&Ms in the first place? It is all about the diet.

(3) Simplicity is key. If your diet is complicated, it’s not gonna last. I’m looking in your direction, calorie counting. Are you prepared to tally your exact calories every single day? No, you are not.

So the goal is to find a simple eating plan that you’re prepared to do continue forever. It took me years but I finally found the solution: intermittent fasting. 

YIKES, you say. HELLA YIKES, BRO. THAT SOUNDS CRAZY. I agree the term rings gimmicky and cultish, so I typically phrase it a different way: I don’t eat breakfast. 

That’s it. All the research and diet attempts and exercise regimens and calorie apps and frozen meals have been replaced by three words: Stop. Eating. Breakfast.

Okay, I admit there is a *tiny* bit more to it than that. But not much. I’ll explain in a series FAQs because who doesn’t love a lazy, stale literary format.

QUESTION 1: WHAT IN THE SHIT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? 

Intermittent fasting is exactly what it sounds like. You ingest zero calories for a set amount of time (black coffee and unsweetened tea don’t count) on a regular basis. The most common is the 1x20, which means that once a week you do a 20-hour fast. For example, after dinner Sunday night (8pm) you don’t eat again until late afternoon Monday (4pm). You essentially skip two meals. Those looking to get more aggressive will do that twice a week. 

Another common routine, and the one that works best for me, is the 5x16 (16–hour fast, 5 days a week). 16 hours seemed daunting until I realized I am typically done with dinner by 8pm, so basically I just needed to get to noon the following day. Hence, no late-night eating and then skip breakfast. Seemed easy enough, so I gave it a shot.

Result: yep, very easy. Most of us do basically no physical activity between 8pm and noon. [Your dumb sex joke goes here.] For the most part it’s couch > bed > car > desk. We’re not out milking cows and plowing fields anymore, so there is almost no way your body was able to burn off the thousand-calorie dinner from last night. 

QUESTION 2: AND YOU’RE SURE IT WORKS? 

Sure, according to all of these articles. It could be flawed but it’s simple to try, it’s worked for me and the very concept of eating fewer calories is essentially bulletproof. So in conclusion: yes. Pretty gotdamn sure.

As for me, I dropped 15 lbs in the first 6 months and that number is my new normal. My average ‘give-or-take-a-few-ell-bees weight’ is now 180, a year ago it was 192.

QUESTION 3: WON’T I BE HUNGRY? 

Yeah, this is the only real challenge with the diet. It’s not that you can’t physically make it to noon without eating, it’s the fear that you may be so hungry once the clock hits 12 you’ll sprint to the cafeteria and have guzzled the entire canister of ranch dressing by 12:01. I barely struggled at all but your mileage may vary. I can tell you that it won’t be more than slightly uncomfortable, and that your body will quickly adjust.

QUESTION 4: YEAH BUT MY METABOLISM WILL SLOW DOWN. 

False. Very false. It’s a popular myth because it sounds intuitively right, but your body won’t go into survival mode and slow your metabolism until ~72 hours without calories, probably because you have so much fat reserves. [Accidentally glances down at your stomach for the briefest moment, you catch me, I blush and avoid eye contact for next hour.] I mean, all humans do. Not just you. I’m sorry.

Point is, don’t ever think that skipping meals slows down your metabolism. Skipping meals is a GOOD thing. 

QUESTION 5: OKAY, IT’S FINALLY NOON. NOW WHAT? 

Shitchyeah, feedbag time. But slow your roll just a touch, champ. The key here is that you don’t take the morning fast as an opportunity to get on a daily-rack-of-ribs routine. You have to eat normally. (This gets tougher during the 20-hour fasts, obviously.) Eat like a normal human being for dinner, too. You don’t get to ingest the 300 extra calories you sacrificed for breakfast. You DO get to be regular: mostly eat okay, work out occasionally. The ability to just be a typical person most of the time is a triumph for a diet. Viva normalcy!

QUESTION 6: WHAT IF I SLIP UP? 

Eh, who cares. This isn’t some new-age weirdo BS where if you accidentally eat 5MG of carbs you get spontaneous fat-face and have to start over. This is a lifestyle, not a diet. Eat a muffin if your coworker made them herself and will give the stink-eye if you say no, order eggs during the family breakfast so you don’t come off as a culty health nut, etc. Just make sure you only eat before noon if absolutely necessary.  

QUESTION 7: HEY I JUST REALIZED YOU SAID THIS IS ONLY A 5-DAY FAST. 

Nice work, eagle eyes. Only took you a few minutes. That’s right, the science department has told us a five-day schedule is enough to see results. So go ahead and take the weekends off. I still try to not eat a whole lot in the mornings unless I’m hung over and the willpower section of my brain is buried under the puddle of IPAs still draining from my skull, but I do my best to not eat in the mornings if I can help it. 

So there you go, that’s it. Obviously you morning exercisers and late-night eaters may have to adjust the schedule or give the 1x20 a try, but this has been a slow-but-steady revelation for me. Just wanted to share. Laters~

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We are not David Foster Wallace

"Kind of incredible." "Pretty much perfect." "I sort of hate it." Etc, etc. The worst writing trend right now (and something I noticed about a million times today, hence this post) is couching every damn proclamation with qualifiers. Stop it, writers. Take a stand or pick a new word. Neither option is difficult.

I don’t write anymore because life keeps getting in the way and I wasn’t great at it to begin with, but I have always remembered my favorite article about writing: Maud Newton on David Foster Wallace. Anyone who is even remotely interested in the art of writing should memorize this passage:

In the Internet era, Wallace’s moves have been adopted and further slackerized by a legion of opinion-mongers who not only lack his quick mind but seem not to have mastered the idea that to make an argument, you must, amid all the tap-dancing and hedging, actually lodge an argument.

A thousand yeses to that sentiment, and to every other point made in her article. A perfect piece.

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"Good points, Pooptron"

One of the best things about the internet is the serious conversation/ridiculous username dichotomy.

This is my favorite example. 

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This is Very Big News for People Who Don’t Get Outside Much and Take Lyrics Way Too Seriously. Honestly, you gotta love it when braggadocios rap fans get all Morrissey-fan about shit and start taking the lyrics way, way, way too seriously.

Over on Jamz, Max Read talks about how Kendrick started a feud with the entire rap industry. It might be more accurate to assume that poor ol’ Kendrick is just a little stoned/coked up and was havin’ a little bit of fun. Dude also talks about Linsday Lohan in the same song. Rap fans are worse than “Walking Dead” fans.

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Details on the BBBS event if you’re curious

As mentioned in the prior post, I was asked to speak at the national Big Brothers Big Sisters convention today. The speech part went fine. The room was huge and attendance was at the max, but they had me use a teleprompter so basically my job was to stand up, read off the screen, and not have a heart attack. Simple enough.

But when I finished and was about to leave the stage, my colleague told me to stay there and announced on the mic that they had a surprise for me. My little bro walked in and jumped on stage, people cheered, we hugged, photos were taken, old ladies cried (not kidding), the whole shebang.

My bro told me they contacted him about a month ago about doing this. He was flown to Denver for an all-expenses paid three-day trip — he’s still there tonight, hanging out with an elementary school friend who lives there. It was his first time on a plane and first time in a nice hotel. He was on cloud nine.  

I’m still buzzing from the experience and glowing that I got to spend a couple hours afterwards with the dude since I never see him anymore. Great day, had to share. 

***

Oh and please consider signing up for BBBS. Doing good feels good.

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This week’s reason I’m freaking out

Been an insane two months for the Broxey family. New job, temporary housing, moving out of one place and into another, new daycare, tons of stressful work presentations, long hours, plus I officiated my first wedding last weekend.

This was the week I’d circled on the calendar back in March, the week where we could finally relax. All settled. New routines. Free time. No stress. Exhale.

So far so good, until today. 

Cut to two months ago. One of my first meetings at my new gig was with the philanthropy team, who told me about their partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I told them I’ve been a Big for 6+ years, so they invited me to the national conference the last week of June. JCP is sponsoring a luncheon and they asked me to speak for a few minutes about my experience with BBBS. Sure, I told them. My pleasure. Fly in to Denver, fun relaxing rah-rah day, fly home. 

Today my philanthropy colleague told me I just need to prepare 3-5 minutes of remarks. No problem. I asked how many people would be at this luncheon and she dismissed the question with a wave, adding “oh, no more than six, maybe seven hundred people.” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s the story of why I’m in the bathroom right now washing my underwear out in the sink.

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Kanye as Tweedy: a sort-of review of “Yeezus”

(Wrote this in a flash, hope it’s coherent)

I’ll begin with the conclusion: Kanye’s “Yeezus” is an album for music snobs only. I can’t imagine non-obsessives enjoying it even a little bit. There are no choruses, no melodies, nothing to sing along to, no real catchiness whatsoever. Instead there are sirens, screams, echoing yelps, lots of silence and some of the most vulgar, terrible lyrics I’ve ever heard. I don’t mean swears, either. I mean straight-up x-rated shit.

So, no, casual music listener, I do not think you will enjoy “Yeezus.” It’s not exactly a fun listen.

What it IS: an unbelievably inventive exploration of the medium. I’m talking a full-fledged sonic assault, light years beyond other music, rap or otherwise. Crazy, difficult, challenging, and best of all new.

I’m not sure yet whether I enjoy listening to the album (again: sirens and screams), but I am damn inspired by the effort. I love that Kanye could have gone Jay-Z or Dre on us and released a happy batch of party anthems, but instead chose not to. He chose to continue to reinvent the form. 

Someone in a review I read compared him to Kurt Cobain for stretching the boundaries of what’s acceptable and not giving a damn what the public thinks (“Rape Me” as the main example), but in my eyes Kanye — the artist, not the celebrity, don’t give a shit about Celebrity Kanye — reminds me of Jeff Tweedy.

I don’t know if you ever saw the Wilco documentary “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” about the making of the surefire, inarguable classic album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” but it perfectly captures the the music-making process, and the making of art in general. There are two scenes that exemplify Wilco’s (and Kanye’s, and many other ambitious artists) point of view. I’ll paraphrase because I don’t have time to watch it again.

1. After they get done practicing one of the new songs, Jay Bennett says something to the effect of, “If you aren’t careful, everything ends up becoming a folk song.” Perfect. Because the easy-strumming singalong is the simplest thing to do. The hard part is adding other instruments and distortions, et al. If you want to truly challenge the form, you go past the fun singalong. (Note: I love folk songs, but they can’t ALL be folk songs.)

2. Tweedy at one point said they will write a new song, make it sound great and then immediately break it down and start turning it into something new. There’s a scene where they are singing (I think) “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” but this version is a very basic adult contemporary rock song. Pleasant though, top-40 material for sure. They got done playing this song that would have gotten them radio play and sellouts and the mansions and whatever, and Tweedy was like, “eh.” And the final version has this distorted guitar lick and some funky background vocals, and it’s the opposite of a radio hit. The whole album is like that; if they wanted to make it a happy adult contemporary album in the guise of The Fray or whoever, it would have been a no-doubt chart-topper. But they turned their back on it because it was important to them to do so.                                         

In the long run it was just a couple quick scenes in a movie no one saw, but they had a very lasting effect on me in all areas of life. Think harder. Go further. That effort is not confined to music.

That’s why Kanye’s the best. No one shows album-to-album evolution like him. Listening to “The College Dropout” after “Yeezus” is like listening to a pre-teen’s first crack at making music, which is fucking insane because “The College Dropout” is still amazing. It’s better than 99% of music, and “Yeezus” makes it sounds like teenybopper music from a generation ago. 

Which isn’t to say I’ll for sure be blasting it nonstop. According to iTunes I’ve listened to it 15 times so far and feel like I’m just getting started. I may end up not liking it and giving up by next week. But already I can say I 100% understand the many critics calling it a masterpiece, and would rather listen to some crazy shit like this than anything on any radio station in the country. It’s a no-brainer. 

But again, that’s because I’m a snob. I’ve heard a version of those radio songs a million times, because I’ve listened to a billion hours of music, because for a long time music was all I cared about. I understand why others don’t care about being “challenged” by music and just want to sing along to Bruno Mars. I get why those non-obsessed people think we obsessives are fools with laughable priorities. Makes all the sense in the world. 

And for those people, I suggest earlier Kanye. Meantime, I’m diving back in for listen #16.

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Buy a ticket, take a ride

BIG NEWS, team: the Broxeys are moving to Texas. I’ll spare you the details but I was offered a once-in-a-career opportunity at JCP, so we’re packing up and heading south at the beginning of April. Will share more details on the upcoming adventure as they happen.

And now let’s all listen to my anthem these past few weeks while mulling over the decision. 

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"The Sportive, ep 2: "You're Welcome, Bettman"

Stu, Jon and Brandon bat around Percy trade scenarios, get real on Gophers hoops, sigh for ten minutes about the Wolves, argue like crazy about another terrible idea from Brandon to save hockey (Clarence will lose his mind when he hears it) and shrug about wrestling. Stu also offers his firstborn to David Eckstein at one point. Enjoy.

mp3 here | iTunes here.

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The Sportive, episode 1: "The Keith Millard Hall of Fame"

The Sportive, episode 1: “The Keith Millard Hall of Fame”

Big news: my previous podcast The Riff has been officially laid to rest in favor of a new venture called The Sportive.

The Sportive will focus on local sports and random asides, and will feature some combination of myself and internet notables Jon Marthaler, Clarence Swamptown and Randball’s Stu. 

Episode 1 covers the Gophers, Wild, Twins and tangents aplenty. First episodes are usually pretty sloppy but this was a fun one. Check it out and keep your eyes peeled here or at thesportive.com for episode two.

(And apologies for the audio at the end - had an issue with the level of the background music that I didn’t notice until it posted.) 

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